Archbishop vows to pray for Alcan staff

THE Archbishop of York has pledged to pray for hundreds of workers about to lose their jobs at Rio Tinto Alcan’s doomed Lynemouth aluminium plant.

Dr John Sentamu expressed concern for the prospects of those set to be dumped on the dole by the firm during a visit to south east Northumberland last week.

The multinational company confirmed earlier this month that it will close the site’s smelter at the end of May after failing to find a buyer.

The closure will lead to an initial 323 workers being made redundant this summer and the remaining 192 staff following them out of the door in the months afterwards.

Dr Sentamu discussed the workers’ plight with Northumberland County Council officers and councillors at a meeting in Morpeth last Thursday during his two-day visit to the diocese of Newcastle.

They also talked about the other challenges facing the county, as well as the work being carried out by the authority to support towns and villages.

After the meeting, the archbishop said: “My message to these Alcan workers is ‘don’t be afraid of the future’.

“It is also important that those who have been working together keep in contact with each other to provide support. We’re stronger when we stick together.

“I hope that something can be found to replace the smelter that works in the long term.

“This is a lovely part of the country, and it was interesting to hear how the council is trying to deal with employment issues and pressures on services.

“The people of Northumberland will be in my prayers.”

Council leader Jeff Reid, of Plessey in Blyth, said: “My colleagues and I had a very informative discussion with the archbishop about the issues facing our county, including the challenges we face with the imminent closure of Alcan, but also about the positive work the authority does to ensure Northumberland remains a great place to live.”

Dr Sentamu also called in at the Northumberland Church of England Academy’s Josephine Butler Campus in Ashington.

The 62-year-old, tipped to be the next archbishop of Canterbury, spent an hour looking at different parts of the campus and speaking to staff and children during his time there.

He said afterwards: “The academy is a laboratory of human growth, including people with physical disabilities. The amount of love and care there was totally remarkable.”

Academy principal Phil Hearne said it had been a great honour to play host to the former barrister.

“He is a lovely person – a genuine spiritual with his feet wholly on the ground,” said Mr Hearne.

“He has a sense of humour which showed when he was talking to the staff and children around the academy.

“The children though it was wonderful, and he was here for about an hour looking at different parts of the academy and held an assembly for our Year 10 students before the choirs sang to him.

“We spoke about our school motto which is ‘inspire achievement, encourage compassion.’”